While looking at my shoes today, I was inspired to do a little research. (I was an assistant manager for years in various shoes stores, so I've always been curious.) Leather vs. Non-Leather and the environmental impacts that both have, along with the ethical treatment of animals, factory workers and our carbon footprint. Here is what I found…. The global trade in leather is worth $77.5 billion USD and footwear taking 60% of that. –WOW!
On average every man, woman and child in the country buys 8 pair of shoes a year. US population 304,059,724 makes sales 2,432,477,792 pairs a year.--www.google.com -> kgbanswers.com (updated Wed., Feb. 1, 2012)
Leather industry: Most leather purchased in the US is imported from China and India; with China, India and Italy being the top producers of leather in the world. Manufactures are required to specify where the finished product is made-not where the materials come from. Animals in this country and especially in China and India are treated poorly, with little regulations put in place. Then, when you take into account the chemicals used in tanneries like formaldehyde, chromium, arsenic and cyanide based dyes and finishes you’re looking at a cocktail of nastiness going into the environment.
So, this is where the ethical side for the environment comes in. This impacts our carbon footprint. Some may think that leather is the by-product of factory farming. What I found out is that without the sale of animal skins, factory farming wouldn’t be able to turn a profit by selling meat alone.
Non-Leather industry: Most non-leather products are made from PVC. For those of you who don’t know, PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and is commonly referred to as “vinyl”. For the purpose today, I’m only going to talk about how it’s made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticizers, the most widely used being phthalates. In this form, it is used in shoes. PVC is not a natural material and will never biodegrade. This fact the industry is quite proud of. According to www.pvc.org PVC enhances our lives and has a “distinguished role in beauty and aesthetics” and is “making our lives safer”. --Phthalates have been linked to reproductive issues in women and impotence issues in men, and has been linked to cancer. Not to mention, that most man made shoes are made in China.
So, what is a girl to do?! One who is compassionate about the world around her, and knows how there is a direct effect with every choice, but likes her 4” heels. As an ethical consumer, I take my shoes, (that I’ve has been wearing forever-at least 10 years) to a repair shop to get new lifts put on. I look for companies like Shoes at Neuaura www.neuaurashoes.com that are American made. For the most stylish selections there is Olsenhaus www.olsenhaus.com and for those in the UK there is Beyond Skin www.beyondskin.co.uk. We, as consumers have to educate ourselves and ask companies where their materials come from and how they are made. Don’t be afraid to ask or to send out those e-mails.
Some other places:
Moo Shoes www.mooshoes.com